Mumbai: All's not well in run-up to Parsi prayer meet

Updated: Oct 23, 2019, 08:22 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

BPP chairman requests Bhikha Behram Well trustees to not invite BPP trustee Noshir Dadrawala as guest speaker at the event, which marks 10 years of Humbandagi on Ava Roj

Noshir Dadrawala
Noshir Dadrawala

A controversy has erupted with the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) chairman Yazdi Desai reportedly requesting the Bhikha Behram Well trustees to not invite BPP trustee Noshir Dadrawala as a guest speaker at the Humbandagi on Ava Roj function on October 25, as he is a known reformist.

Praying together

The event, which marks 10 years on Friday, means praying together. For a single day every month the Parsi community congregates at the SoBo well near Churchgate and Cross Maidan to pray together. This is usually followed by a talk by a priest, religious scholars or any other person held in esteem by the community.

Organiser of the monthly Humbandagi, Hoshang Gotla said, "We have not missed a day in 10 years. This Friday the community will mark yet another Humbandagi on Ava Roj, but with a celebratory feel to the prayer meet."

Burjor Antia, chairman of trustees of the Bhikha Behram Well, said he had received an email from Desai asking him to not allow Dadrawala speak at the event. Antia said, "We have been told that Dadrawala will not speak anything controversial. It will be about how to pray and stay together."

Petty politics and Parsis

Speaking to mid-day, Dadrawala said, "When I learnt of Desai saying this via a WhatsApp group message thread, I couldn't believe it, thinking Desai cannot stoop so low." He had even sent a clarification whatsapp message to the community early on Tuesday saying that he speaks at the Ava Roj "once or twice a year on invitation. If they request me not to speak this Friday, it makes no difference. I have enough to do. But, I think this is a rumour started by one Parvarta Ponachand Parsi (a Parsi with nothing better to do in life) on some timepass WhatsApp group."

On being asked about being called a reformist, Dadrawala shot back via Whatsapp saying, "Reformist is one who reforms what is deformed by unthinking dolts."

Dadrawala, though later on learning that it was true (Desai asking trustees to not let him speak), said, "I did not think Desai would stoop so low, but sadly he has. From 'Parsi thy name is charity', it is now 'Parsi thy name is pettiness'. When people mix politics with religion, it is bound to blow up in their face." Even after repeated attempts, Desai did not respond to calls or messages. However, Gotla said that Dadrawala would speak at the event. He said, "We have invited Dadrawala as a religious scholar, great speaker and our friend. He comes every year. Togetherness, happiness and prayer spread to one and all."

Holy well

The Bhikha Behram Well near Cross Maidan is one the city's oldest sunken sweet water sources and a Grade I heritage structure, holy to the Parsis. Bhika Behram had built the well in 1725 to thank the almighty for sparing his life after the Marathas, who were at war with the Sultans of Gujarat, mistook him for a Muslim. It is one of the few Parsi wells in the city, which has one entrance for community members and another for non-Parsis to draw water.

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